Media Release issued Monday 16 April 2018

Health professionals in Australia have strongly criticised the government for preaching respect for international law in Syria, while practising the opposite.   Australia strongly endorses attacks on Syria by the US, the UK and France which violate international law, given they are neither conducted in self-defence nor authorised by the UN .

Claims by Foreign Minister Bishop that protection of civilians is our driving concern are not credible.  In Senate Estimates last year the Defence Department noted that “Defence does not have access to information on the total number of casualties from the Iraq war”.   MAPW spokesperson Dr Margaret Beavis said “As civilian impacts in the Middle East are neither counted nor even estimated, it is deceptive to claim that their welfare is pre-eminent.”

Far from addressing the grave crime of chemical weapons attacks, military action will render accountability for these crimes virtually impossible.  As with other crimes, investigations - rather than allegations - are required to establish the facts, particularly as to who was responsible.  The recent attacks by the US and allies came just after inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons landed in Syria.  To pretend that punitive actions are conducted to uphold international law is farcical, given they preempt the collection of evidence.

Foreign Minister Bishop stated on 14 April that Australia has long called for a political solution to this crisis. That being the case, her support for military action is totally inconsistent. “Military action simply reinforces the cycle of violence, with civilians being the primary victims. It also risks major escalation.” said Dr Beavis.

Meanwhile the government continues to show its contempt for international law regarding weapons of mass destruction, as it refuses to sign the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Minister Bishop has stated that “the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible”, but she specifically supports much worse weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons.  

Australia’s disregard for the welfare of civilians is manifest also in our ongoing - and attempt to increase – military sales to Saudi Arabia, whose bombing of Yemen is a key factor in the unprecedented humanitarian crisis there.

“Australia should support OPCW investigations, provide far greater humanitarian aid, and sign the UN nuclear weapons treaty. If chemical weapons that indiscriminately kill civilians are so immoral, how can Australia justify supporting nuclear weapons, which are worse and have been banned by the UN?” said Dr Beavis.

For further information or interview, please call:

Dr Sue Wareham, MAPW President, 0407 924 152, (not available Monday 16 April),

 or Dr Margaret Beavis, MAPW Secretary, 0401 995 699